Dipo: The silence after the storm. The tone of your alarm still shudders in your memory, shattering your previous notions of peace and the vivid pictures of a world formed in your sleep’s eye. In that silence a decision must be made; do you return to that dream like universe? Or do you stand, and face the challenges ahead of you?
The decision is made easier when surrounded by like-minded men or woman, determined to go into battle with you. The universal sign of a team is the huddle. A large circle formed by the clasp of arms, and shared ideals; a reminder that whatever you are about to face, you will do so in the company of others, whose sole intention is to have your back. A team is a truly wonderful thing. It’s one of life great gifts. But what separates elite athletes is the knowledge that being apart of a team is not only about surrounding yourself with those who will give everything to support you, but gives you the opportunity to have the back of those closest to you.
A quarterbacks is at his best, when his mind is free, knowing his guards have created a wall of protection so great, no one would dare approach, and those fools who do will be reminded that this is no place for trespassers. The guards in turn know that their efforts are not in vain, as when they look up from the ground they will see the ball gliding through the sky, stoppable only by the perfect caress of the wide receiver, before he strides his way to the greatest destination this sport knows.
In this lies sports great truth. A perfect team needs the commitment of perfect individuals. To reach this point of perfect harmony, a decision must be made, and it is one that cannot be made in a group, but must be done on your own.
You check your phone again, certain that it, or someone must be playing a cruel trick on you. The time on your phone indicates a closeness to yesterday that you are uncomfortable with. You have stuttered for a moment – you’re only human, weakness may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. You have never felt so alone. The thought of a missed tackle, dropped catch or block; turning your head on the field to see your teammate in agony because you did not do your job is the final motivator, you tell yourself no more games, just do it.
You stand and plant your feet on the cold floor, a few blinks later you are staring at a similar sight, but this time you are in an empty locker room, the same room normally filled with others. Their identity at that moment is wrapped in the team colours draped over your shoulders. This time, however, you understand that it cannot be that way. Today’s challenges you face alone.
To some an empty gym is no friend. A track, or field should only be stepped on under the direct orders of someone else. But you’re prepared. You know its secrets, so you’ve arrived with a few secrets of your own, some are deep in your mind, the rest you quickly empty from your bag. Suddenly every fear leaves you in one big swoosh.
Every rep is tackle made. Every cone is an opponent beaten. Every sprint is a catch, previously deemed impossible, caught.
By the end of the day, when you stare out unto the field that is now littered with your conquests, tomorrow suddenly seems easier. The sight of your team-mates palms smacking your back in gratitude seems only moments away.
You’re ready. Just one more alarm. The huddle awaits.
Adam: It’s crazy to think that an organisation as popular as the NFL is still growing, but it is, and the majority of this growth is coming overseas from the UK. After a stint of pre-season games during the 1980’s across the UK, American football grew in popularity thanks to TV coverage and the ability to watch the sport at any time on the Internet. Now, the NFL International Series has been bringing regular season games to London since 2007, where the first game in the UK for 14 years sold the first 40,000 tickets in the opening 90 minutes of sales. Since then, one game a year has been the pattern with each one selling out and being a complete success. That’s up until this year where London is the host to two games, and three next year, during which the Jacksonville Jaguars are having a London home game up until 2016.
American Football is a sport like no other. Distinct tactical plays and strategies separate lineups and a whole heap of gear separates it from many of the other more free-flowing sports out there. Players have a job on the pitch, whether it be throwing the pass or kicking the field goals, and it’s that element of speciality positions that makes the sport so accessible for anyone that likes to enter a sport with a goal going in to each competitive scenario.
From the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen in recent time in Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, to some of the most athletic running backs and wide receivers such as Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and Ray Rice, the NFL is full of talented sportsmen who train hard and prepare well. Explosiveness, toughness, quickness, lateral movement and vision are all such important elements of the sport, from the quarterback to the defensive linebacker. Throwing that game-winning touchdown, running that perfect route, powering through to the end zone and making those big time stops doesn’t come without timely preparation, dedication and hard work.